Magazine features Albert Lea wastewater treatment plant

Published 3:39 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

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The Albert Lea wastewater treatment plant was recently featured in a national magazine for its work to protect the environment. The magazine, called Treatment Plant Operator, highlights Superintendent Brandon Huston’s commitment to excellent operations, even with an aging facility.

For Huston, his career is more than just a job — it’s a calling.

“I always had a desire to help the environment,” said Huston, whose photo graces the cover of the magazine’s April edition. “I feel like we’re actually doing something good for humankind. We’re solving diseases. We’re removing pollutants from the rivers. We’re working with industries and benefiting them as well.”

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The cover story was prompted by Huston being named the 2023 Outstanding Class A Operator of the Year, and one of his staff, Cavit Wobschall, being named 2023 Rookie Operator of the Year by the Minnesota Wastewater Operators Association.

Huston has been with the Albert Lea plant since he started as an intern 25 years ago. He is proud of the steps he and his team have taken to improve the treatment plant. In addition to Huston and Wobschall, the team includes Dustin White, foreman; Matthew Larson, lab technician; and operators Matthew Jensen, Lane Ohl, Travis Rauenhorst, Nichoas Finholdt and Parker Hanna.

The team has received awards for outstanding operations from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the last three of four years. The plant is also participating in a University of Minnesota research project on wastewater surveillance for COVID-19.

“I feel like my entire crew deserves this award because they work hard all year long. I really do have a fantastic foreman, lab tech and operators. We earned this award and recognition together, even with an old facility!” Huston said. “We look forward to discharging even cleaner water into the environment after the wastewater treatment plant receives its upgrades for phosphorus removal and newer technology.”

The upcoming upgrades, estimated at $80 million, will ensure the plant remains effective for years to come. These improvements include new technology for phosphorus removal, a biosolids dryer, and additional clarifiers and filters. The plant processes an average of 4 million gallons of wastewater a day and discharges the treated water to the Shell Rock River.

Huston is enthusiastic about the future of the wastewater treatment industry.

“They’ve solved a lot of the world’s problems with pollution, and now they’re fine-tuning it and dialing in,” he said.